World Facts

Why Did the Vietnam War Start?

Many events led up to the beginning of the Vietnam War.

The Vietnam War is also known as the Second Indochina War. It was fought in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia between North and South Vietnam. The North was supported by China and the Soviet Union while the South was supported by the United States, Thailand, Australia, and South Korea. The National Liberation Front, also known as the Viet Cong, was a South Korean armed resistance that aided the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). The resistance and the NVA fought to unify the country while the South sought to establish independence from the North. Today, the Vietnamese people refer the war as the Resistance War Against America. Unlike other wars, there was no declaration of the Vietnam War. However, it is believed and accepted by many that the war began on November 1, 1955, and ended on April 30, 1975. The U.S involvement in Vietnam had started as early as 1950 when Harry Truman sent military advisors to aid the French. However, the US started direct military action in Vietnam in 1964 until 1973.

Causes of the Vietnam war

Since the 19th century, Vietnam had been under colonial rule. During the Second World War, Japan invaded the country. Vietnamese political leader Ho Chi Minh inspired by Chinese and Soviet communism formed the League for the Independence of Vietnam (Viet Minh) with the aim of driving out both the Japanese invaders and the French colonialists. After the United States forced Japan to surrender during the Second World War, it withdrew its troops from Vietnam leaving the Emperor Bao Dai in power. Ho Chi Minh saw an opportunity to seize control and immediately rose up in arms. He took control of Hanoi and declared the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) and himself the president. Backed by the French, Emperor Bao set up the state of Vietnam in July 1949 choosing Saigon as the capital city. Although both parties wanted a united country, Ho and his supporters favored communism while Bao and many others wanted to establish a country based on western culture. The difference in ideology resulted in one of the world’s longest and brutal wars. The North won the battle at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954 and ended the French rule in the South. In July 1954, a treaty to split the county along the 17th parallel was reached. However, the treated also called for an election two years later to unify the country. A year later, anti-communist leader Ngo Dinh Diem ousted emperor Bao from power and became the president of South Vietnam.

The Domino Theory

In 1961 President John F. Kennedy sent out a team of experts to report on the conditions in South Vietnam. The team advised the president to increase the presence of American soldiers, and technical and economic aid to help the south fight the Viet Cong resistance. Kennedy believed that if communism thrived in one Southeast Asian country, the rest would be compromised and communism would spread uncontrollably. Kennedy increased economic aid to the south Vietnam and deployed thousands of U.S troops to the country. By 1962, about 9,000 American troops were stationed in the country, a huge increase from 800 in the 1950s.

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